Naples board talks taxes

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Taxes were the topic on several fronts.

On Monday, Naples residents and elected public officials discussed tax-acquired land, heard a clarification of when the town puts tax liens on real estate as well as the possibility of a more aggressive collection of that tax, and talked about the personal property tax owed to the town.

Also, it was mentioned that the topic of tax collection policies should be on the agenda in the future.

Currently, the amount of uncollected real estate taxes still owed to the town is slightly less than $500,000.

Since May, when the 2015 Town Report was published and there was $1 million in delinquent taxes, about half of that has been collected. The exact amount of unpaid real estate taxes is $494,843; and that list goes back to 2008.

Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak said the town would send another round of letters reminding property owners of past debts.

On Monday, the Naples Board of Selectmen voted on the fate of two parcels that the town owns through the tax lien process. During the meeting, the board’s action was to accept a bid for $10,000 to purchase a parcel that had been acquired by the town. The second parcel was put out to bid again.

During public participation time, resident Jim Gratello sought clarification on how the town goes about putting tax liens on property. Gratello referred to a comment by Paraschak during a Naples Budget Committee meeting. Gratello said he thought the time period was two years that a taxpayer was in arrears before the town started the tax lien process.

According to Paraschak, a lien can be put on real estate after the bill has been due for one year.

Gratello advised the town manager to file the liens so that the Town of Naples is positioned to collect those debts.

“The town doesn’t have to exercise the lien,” he said, adding that the town should file that lien paperwork.

“If a company goes out of business, you are in line to get the back taxes. Towns can work with businesses on back taxes,” he said.

Selectman Dana Watson said, “We voted not to implement the personal property tax.”

Paraschak clarified Watson’s statement by saying the selectmen voted against a more aggressive means of keeping track of businesses’ equipment that would be taxed as personal property.

“I think what Dana is getting at (is) years ago, some towns assessed personal property taxes. The assessors don’t go knocking on the door of every business every year” to record what new equipment has been purchased or what old equipment is no longer operating.

“Years ago, Naples explored the idea of going out from business to business” for an updated list of personal property that can be taxed, but the board decided against that, Paraschak said.

For the Town of Naples, one approach to personal property tax collection might be to wait and see what policy is written for the Town of Casco and adopt a version of that, Paraschak said.

Regarding personal property taxes, Gratello said, “It should be consistent.”

The town should offer equal assistance or payment plans to all businesses — not based on who has contracts with the town or who is related to someone in the town.

The collection of taxes should be fair across the board, Gratello said.

“I agree 100%. We have to figure out how to deal with this,” Selectman Christine Powers said.

“Public participation is not the time to hammer out the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s.’ I would like to see it on our next agenda, just not now,” Powers said.

Resident Jim Turpin, who also chairs the Budget Committee, asked how the town went about collecting personal property tax. In the 2015 Town Report from mid-May, $180,000 is owed in personal property taxes.

Likely, that number has changed in the past seven months.

“Are those all bills that went out over the years?” Turpin asked.

Paraschak answered, “Yes.”

Turpin double-checked that “unpaid property taxes accrue interest on our books. They exist. The bills were sent.”

He was told yes.

Chairman Bob Caron II said none of the businesses in town have requested abatement on those taxes.

Paraschak said that the selectmen had asked that the town “go after” delinquent real estate taxes, but the board has not defined a direction for collecting personal property taxes.

“It is a potential revenue stream,” Turpin said.

“We are slowly going down that route. Since last summer, we have been more aggressive,” Caron said.

“There is more work to do,” Paraschak said.

 

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